Human Machine Interface – How human and machine join forces

Computer set up at ERNI Romania offices.

Just as we humans communicate with each other with words and gestures, a common language is needed in the interaction between humans and machines. In a sense, the HMI is the medium through which humans and machines communicate with each other. A human machine interface is simply a dashboard through which a user interacts with the system behind the display.

Human Machine Interfaces have been around as long as there have been machines. With increasing automation, the processes naturally become more complex, as do the operating and output elements. In a car, there is the accelerator, the clutch, gearstick, brake, speedometer, fuel gauge. In a pocket calculator, numeric and character keys and a simple digital output field. In a computer, screen, mouse, keyboard, operating system. In a factory, the production machines and their displays and screens, via which they are operated by people. The list could be continued indefinitely.

In human-machine interaction, human, interface and machine act jointly. The HMI is the interface of the interaction and intelligent solutions are needed here.

One goal, many paths

Industry 4.0 requires customised, perfectly designed HMIs. A real smart factory, for example, is like a gigantic organism assembled from countless other organisms. Everything runs largely autonomously, in almost complete automation. The smooth functioning of these systems is orchestrated by humans supported by artificial intelligence. The success of this communication relies heavily on the quality of the dashboard. For the new types of production, an HMI that is as perfectly adapted as possible is absolutely indispensable. A machine for manufacturing dentures needs different input and output parameters during production than, for example, a device that controls the temperature at a melting pot. The better and more individual the solution, the more trouble-free the production.

However, many HMI solutions offered today are not oriented towards individual problems but are standardised and aimed at the broadest possible mass. Only a few companies offer truly individual solutions in the field of manufacturing automation. A really good HMI – and that is always one that is tailored to the task at hand – is a matter of know-how. The best machines can never be more intelligent than their creators. The best programmes are written by excellent mental acrobats. The most innovative solutions require competence, courage, and creativity.

Customised solutions

ERNI has been known for customised, individual HMI solutions for years. We have already been able to demonstrate our expertise in many innovative projects with renowned partners. Be it that we have remedied the weaknesses of a testing process by having our engineers develop a new, improved process that not only elegantly circumvented the weaknesses but also delivered further advantages for the performance of the system. Be it that we made the robots of an auto manufacturing plant function more smoothly. Individual solutions were always the key to success. This is particularly evident in the HMI Lab Connectivity project.

A well-known customer presented us with a challenge: it was to connect a robot for automated loading and unloading of laboratory samples into a centrifuge with a laboratory middleware. Our engineers did their best to design the ideal HMI solution. As the case study soon to be published on the subject proves, they were successful.

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